Wednesday, October 23, 2013

31 Little Lives Lost: Why Clean Water Matters

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post blathering on and on about my really rough week. I was dealing with a husband out of town and a sick baby.  Blah, blah, blah. . . First-world problems.  Blah, Blah, Blah. . . ants in my bathroom.  Blah, Blah, Blah. 

I got it together enough at the end of the post to gain some perspective on my situation in light of the rest of the world.  

There were a few things I mentioned that I was thankful for, one of which was clean water. 

Around the same time that week, tucked in the middle of the DRC and accessible only by small plane, was an orphanage in crisis. 

Dysentery had struck, killing over HALF of the children in just a few days. 

31 out of 52 children.  Many under the age of five.  

All because of the lack of clean water. 

That week, I held my sick, Congolese baby boy and had the privilege of nursing him back to health.  He was given clean water and juice to help him from dehydrating. He was changed frequently when his diapers were runny and full.  He was enveloped in my arms when he was fussy.  He was reminded of my  love over and over as I kissed his feverish cheeks.  

Those 31 little ones and the others who were sick did not have that privilege.  The weight of that wears heavily on me. 

Those 31 little ones did not have access to clean drinking water and because of that, they died. 

Clean drinking water. That is all. 

What I so flippantly take for granted on a daily basis made the difference between life and death for them. 

Please take a minute to head here to read their story, see the precious faces of lives that were lost, and to learn what you can do to help make sure this does not happen again.  

Then read here for an update on the situation and more ways to help. 

This is not just a sad story to read, this is an opportunity to see a need and meet it in a very tangible way.  

My heart is heavy for the lives lost and for those who remain, still living in a precarious situation.  There are adoptive parents grieving, because they received an unexpected phone call that their son or daughter had passed away.  There are orphanage caretakers in mourning over dozens of children who they could not save, though they tried with every resource they had. 

I'm embarrassed by my whiny first world problems, my friends, they PALE in comparison to the burdens so many face around our world.  Forgive me, and join me in praying for these children and those in place to care for them. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I Blame it on Naps and HGTV

It's official. I stink at blogging every day.  I tried, really I did.  And I'm thankful, really I am.  But my "31 days of Thankfulness" blog series made it to about day 13 and then broke down.  Dang it.

To those that have multiple children, cook actual meals, have clean floors and are able to find the time to write everyday, I salute you and stand amazed.

It appears my love of the occasional nap, HGTV, and my part-time job may be getting in the way of actually being a consistent blogger.  Oh well.  

If napping is wrong, I don't want to be right. 

I'm going to do a quick Thankfulness catch-up because I know some of you were really devastated when I stopped posting everyday. (At least that's what my mom told me.)

Over the past week, I've been Thankful for: 

  • Beautiful days outside to release some little boy energy.

  • A two year-old with an adorable hat obsession. 

  • Text message conversations with far away girlfriends that have me laughing out loud. #youknowwhoyouare
  • Grandparents who provided us with a new swingset.  
  • Chilly mornings, cozy blankets, and fall boot weather. 
  • My little mischief makers. 
  • Generous gifts of fall and winter clothing for the boys
  • Starbucks gift cards
  • Knowing that in two weeks, updated pictures of Tyson and a big hug from me will be delivered to Mama Isabelle by another DRC adoptive mom.
Some days I can't even handle how cute this kid is...

That's all for nowIt's nap time!  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Meet Aaliyah

She's seven.  Craves one-on-one adult attention.  Really, what little one doesn't love the adoration and affection of their family?  

Except, this is different, because this treasured little girl doesn't have a forever family to give her the attention she needs.  This sweet girl is LONGING and absolutely craving for someone to care for her.  

Could it be you? 

Meet Aaliyah. 

Aaliyah, born July 2006 is an active little girl that is full of energy. She plays well alone and prefers not to be in a large group setting. Aaliyah likes one-on-one attention from adults. She loves to watch cartoons and play with dolls. Aaliyah also loves to swim and play outside. 

Aaliyah is curious, so she likes to explore. Aaliyah must be monitored closely, as she will wander off when things catch her attention. She has no boundaries and will leave with a stranger if not monitored closely. 

Aaliyah is a very sweet young lady who loves to be praised. She responds well to a behavior chart and regular praise. She longs for a family who will provide her the support and attention she needs to grow into an adulthood.

Friends, YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE.  Families are inquiring about these Heart Gallery children because you are sharing their story!! 

I ask that you would please share Aaliyah's story.  Let's help this little one find a forever family so the draw of just anyone's attention is no longer needed. Pray for her to be connected with a family that will love, nurture, and care for her in ways that she will never have to question where she belongs or whether she is wanted. 

To learn more about Aaliyah, please head to her Heart Gallery page

Pray.  Advocate.  Share.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 14: Long Distance Connections

I'm woefully behind on all parts of my life.  My hopes of actually posting everyday this month are long over, but I'm going to continue my 31 Days of Thankfulness with a few gaps.

Thanks to my government-funded job, I get off on state holidays, which has allowed me to be home all days with my boys.  AND. . . they decided to both sleep in until 7:30 this morning!  

That is tangible proof it's a new week, people! Woohoooooooooo! 

Before kids, being off of work meant spending the day catching up on tv shows, enjoying my coffee, running errands, and maybe meeting a friend for lunch. These days, having the day off means exactly none of that. But it did give us some time to catch up with family today.  

I'm almost a thousand miles away from my sister and her family and my parents.  I see my sister at most, three times a year, which is unacceptable, but a current reality.  My parents are able to visit us a little more, which I am so grateful for, but I still always wish for more time.

Today, (and many days), I'm thankful for Skype.  It's made being so far from the ones I love a little bit easier.

When the little ones change and grow on almost a weekly basis, being able to see one another at least allows us to feel as though we are "there" for some of milestones. 

A typical conversation consists Tyson is usually trying to reach the computer to push any and all buttons and J-man is trying to give hugs and fist bumps through the computer screen. It's chaotic and loud and crazy, but it's a tiny piece of family connection that I miss so dearly.  

Thankful for technology and the day off today!  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day 12: Over

On Thursday, I put up this post, joyfully awaiting my husband's arrival home that night after a really hard week.  

And then he missed his flight.  Which really stunk.  

He wouldn't be able to get in until lunchtime on Friday. 

I may have cried. 

On Thursday night, I became the lucky recipient of Tyson's virus which provided me with a fever, aches, and chills.  

Did I mention it was a hard week? 

Friday morning was spent trying not to get too close to J-man and infect him as well.  Which is obviously super easy to do with a two year-old.  

Brian walked through the door late morning and hugged me.  I may have cried.  A lot. 

Then my aching, feverish self went into our room and didn't come out until today.  

Today, I'm thankful that my husband is home, that J-man didn't get this dreaded virus yet (and hopefully won't), and that my fever is gone.  

And I am thankful this week is OVER.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 10: Reinforcements

Brian is on his way home. 

Here is how I feel about it. 

Reinforcements are coming. 

That is what I'm thankful for today. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 9: Ants in My Pants. Literally.

Day three of solo parenting.  I'm losing, people. 

Tyson is pitifully not feeling well and has needed almost constant snuggles or attention. 

J-man is a little confused.  He doesn't understand this whole, "please don't hug your brother," mantra that his mama has used this week. Any other time, she's begging for him to hug it out with his brother.   Poor guy does not get this sudden turn of events. 

One of the dogs keeps peeing in the house.  I can't figure out who. But I have my suspicions (and it rhymes with Randit. )

I put Tyson down for a nap today and headed to take a shower for the first time this week.  Made it a foot into the bathroom when I noticed a lot of movement on the floor.  

Ants.  Ants everywhere.  

Ants in my pants.

Literally.  I had a few pairs lying on the floor. 

Ran to get the only thing I knew would help.  Windex.  Thought I killed them all.  

Then saw some in my closet.  For some reason, that was what drove me over the edge.  It's one thing to enter my bathroom, but don't you dare enter my closet. 

Full on sobs. 

Called Brian.  He calmed me down slightly and went to call our pest control guy.  

Found ants in our bed.  Another breakdown. 

(Had this incident occurred separately from the rest of my week I may have responded with much less dramatics.  Or not.  Hard to tell.)

Pest Control guy showed up 45 minutes later.  Squirted and sprayed some death potion and left. 

Threw my ant-infested clothes and sheets in the washing machine and set the water temperature to 4,000 degrees.  Die, suckers, die. 

I can't stop itching.  

Did I mention my propensity for dramatics today?

Today really stunk. But seriously, when put into perspective and compared to the most of the earth's population, I have NOTHING to complain about. 

We were able to have someone come fix our ant problem within an hour.  

I have a washer and dryer available inside my house.  

I have hot water.  I have CLEAN water.

I have a bed.  

These are first world gifts that I do not deserve but yet have been given. I take them for granted FAR too often.  

Today, I'm thankful for first-world conveniences.  I'm reminded that I have been blessed with much and therefore I have much to give others.  May my life, my resources, and my earthly possessions be used for more than my personal gain and comfort.  

(P.S. The above statement does not apply to the ants.  They are not welcome to any of my possessions or my home.) 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Meet Austin

I'm honored to introduce you to Austin, the Alabama Heart Gallery child of the week.  He is a sweet boy who is described as polite, affectionate, and loving.  

Austin was born in September, 2002 and attends elementary school. Austin's favorite subjects are science and social studies. Science is his favorite because he enjoys learning about nature. Austin is very funny and likes to joke around. Austin is also very polite and sweet. He likes to play video games and ride his bike. He also enjoys sports and drawing. Austin enjoys drawing for others. 

Austin is a loving child and likes affection. Austin has played football in the past and enjoyed that very much. Austin is very loyal to those he loves and will stand up for them to the end.

Austin has been described as someone who, "is very loyal to those he loves and will stand up for them to the end." 

Praying for a family who will step up and STAND UP for Austin.  

To watch Austin's interview and to learn more about him, head over here.  

Please share Austin's story.  

Day 8: Last Minute Hero

I started my 31 days of Thankfulness with this blog post last week.  My husband questioned why I was doing this in October instead of November, which surprisingly holds a holiday with a similar name.  

I fully realize I'm a month ahead.  Clearly, not all of my life choices are based on the way the rest of the world works. :) AND I purposely chose to write about Thankfulness this month because of our difficult summer combined with my ugly tendency to lean toward the opposite direction-- complaining and whining. 

Last week, as I wrote about in my posts, I had some tough days with my little ones.  Or so I thought.  Those days were NUH-THING compared to yesterday. 

I left Brian with the boys over the weekend.  According to his report, they did well and even slept an hour longer than usual.  I said goodbye to Brian yesterday morning as he left for a work trip and two seconds later, Tyson wakes up with a high fever. 

What. in. the. world.   

Poor baby was absolutely miserable and got progressively worse throughout the day.  He cried when I had him in my arms and cried when I put him down. He just couldn't be comforted.  I wanted to get him into the doctor, but couldn't take both boys because: (A.) I've not completely lost my mind yet and (B.) We had a large delivery coming to the house and someone had to be present to sign for it. 

Yesterday, with less than an hour's notice, I called my friend Heather to help.  She's the kind of friend who selflessly and consistently helps so many people around her.  Heather headed over to watch my 23 month-old, J-man, who may or may not currently enjoy picking things out of nose and trying to eat bugs he finds on the floor. (It's protein, right?)  

Almost two hours later, I finally got back home with a doctor-certified, pitifully sick baby.   Heather was somehow still smiling and playing with my toddler, who at that point, was seconds away from throwing an epic tantrum over having to get off Daddy's lawnmower and come inside the house.  

I'm so thankful for "the Village" in our life who step in and help when I'm floundering. I'm grateful for other friends who know the current situation and have offered to help as well throughout the week.  I've written about them before, but my goodness, with our extended family living so far away, our Village is the only thing that maintains my sanity some days. 

Here's to hoping the week gets a little calmer! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 7: Sharing Their Stories

I've had the honor of posting the stories of waiting foster children in Alabama over the past few months.  According to a recent article in US Today, the average age of a child in foster care nationally is  8 1/2 years old. The older they are, the less likely they are to be adopted. 

The good news is that adoptions are RISING in the United States for children who are currently waiting for families. However, as of 2012, there were still 101,000 children without forever homes. 

A friend on facebook posted this status today:
~Talked with a former foster child last night who told me she "never had the privilege of being adopted." I'll never forget that.~

What if there were more families out there who viewed adopting an older child as a PRIVILEGE??? 

Today, I'm thankful for: 

~Amazing organizations like Heart Gallery and Adopt US Kids who advocate for waiting children. Over 20,000 children photolisted on the Adopt US kids website alone have found forever families! 

~YOU. Your willingness to share these children's stories through social media has resulted in serious inquiries made on some of the waiting children from the last few months! Children have potentially found their forever family because you took a minute out of your day to share their story.  That is AMAZING! Just sharing their story could change the course of their future!  

Friends, may we not forget the 100,000 children waiting across the United States for a family. 

Please, please, please keep sharing their stories and their faces.   

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Days 5 and 6: Friendships

As a girl coming out of college, you're taking one of two routes; marry your sweetheart and settle into the twenties as a partnership or head into adulthood as a single girl on your own.

I took the latter route, and headed south to Atlanta the month after I graduated from college.  I was twenty-one and knew five people who lived in the entire state - and they were my relatives.

I landed a teaching job and connected with a pretty big church in the area that had a large population of other people in same stage of life.  The friends I made in this season of life became a family to me.  I was 700 miles away from my parents and learning to navigate through life on my own for the very first time.

These women have been a staple in my life for the past decade and a half.  We've been through first jobs, first dates (too many), and first apartments together.  Many a late night was spent bonding over cookie dough while rehashing stories from our crazy dates and escapades. 

We've cried with and for each other, laughed often (mostly about our bad first dates), comforted when things were rough and confronted when someone was out of line. These girls have walked with me through some of the most difficult seasons of my life and they've been there to celebrate the momentous occasions as well.

Lately, our time together is scarce, due to miles, work, and families.  Yet, their role in my life has remained constant. Today, I'm thankful for best friends who have known the "me," before I became a wife and a mom. 

Thank you, my blond, Georgia beauties, for continuing to encourage my dreams, for making me snort water through my nose from laughing, and for keeping me from buying a pair a mom jeans.  I miss you daily.  

And so grateful for a husband who understands the value of letting me have time away with my girls. Not every man is willing to handle two little boys under the age of two by himself for a few days. 

Thankful for the girls who have helped shaped who I am today. Not only this group of amazing women, but the core groups girlfriends that I have been blessed to have kept through high school and college. 

High School girlfriends

College girlfriends

So much to be thankful for today! 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 4: A Front-Row Seat

Today I'm leaving my husband to head off on a girl's weekend away. He'll be wrangling the two youngest by himself for a few days.  I'm really excited that my boys are getting some one on one time with their daddy.  I'm also really excited to sleep in. 

Over the past three years, I've had a front-row seat to watch this man of mine become a dad.  His path to fatherhood has been  unconventional from the very start, but he's taken each new opportunity on with enthusiasm and excitement. 

Our first "son," Justin, moved in with us for six months. He was twenty and had already lived two decades with his mom and brother.  I witnessed my husband, just ten years older than Justin, step into his life and become a father.  He listened, intentionally asked questions, challenged his thought process, and offered guidance for his future. 

I've seen Brian become a father who invites his children into what he's doing on a daily basis. With TD, who has been our son for the past year and a half, he has taught him how to handle the yard work, open a bank account, pay bills, interview for a job, and so many other life skills.  He's counseled, disciplined, loved, challenged, and encouraged him to become a man of character and integrity. 

I've watched a bond develop between these two that is undeniable.  Brian has been a father to our J-man since he was two weeks old.  He's changed diapers, held him through the night, cleaned him up when he's been sick, snuggled and wrestled with him.  As soon as he walks through the door, J-man's face lights up and he's running for his daddy.  And his daddy is running for him.   

Brian was the first one to hold Tyson.  If you watch the video of meeting our son for the first time, Brian is the one to reach for him first.  It speaks much to his character.  He has always been willing jump in and do whatever was called for in the lives of his boys.  (I should probably add that you will notice in the video how I then grab Tyson out of Brian's arms about 2.5 seconds later and refuse to let him go . . .)

Today, I'm thankful to have a husband who has filled the role of father in so many unique ways.  All of our boys have lost their biological dads, either through absence or death. Brian has stepped in with courage, humility, and grace to be their dad. 

It has not always gone smoothly, and there have been missteps along the way.  But when Brian has fumbled, he has always asked for forgiveness from his boys, and vowed to respond differently the next time. He's learning right along with them.   

The legacy he is imprinting on their hearts will impact them for generations to come. 

WHO are you thankful for today? 


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 3: Backyard Shenanigans

The boys felt the need to show out after yesterday's post and start the Perfect Storm party even earlier today.  No amount of chocolate and peanut butter was going to ease the pain of today's unexplained crying fits and destruction of property, so we headed outside for a breath of fresh air. 

Today, I'm thankful for a big ol' backyard where everyone can spread out and quit annoying the stink out of each other.  My husband bought our house as a single man when he first moved to town, six years ago. I'm convinced that the only thing he saw was the backyard.  It's big enough for a football game, bleachers, and a concession stand.  Forget the actual house, he was in love with the backyard.  

When I moved in, the house was filled with a whole lot of University of Tennessee orange, and while I fully support the team, I do not support decorating my house with that color palette. So, at that point, the backyard was the most redeeming quality of the house. 

I consider it a huge blessing and I'm grateful to have so much space for the boys. 

J-man and Knox

Tyson and Knox
(That poor dog follows anyone around with his ball, 
hoping for some action. 
Bless his heart.)

Plenty of room for Tyson to practice his weird new crawl.  
Butt up, straight legs. 

J-man making a run for Mama's water bottle while she is taking pictures. Nice try, buddy, but I'm on to you. 

Bandit the Wonder Dog doing what he does best . . . chasing shadows.   

This kid. Those two teeth.  
So darn cute. 

I will be even more thankful when the boys get to an age that I don't have to be concerned they may be eating something guh-ross that they found laying in the yard. (We have two dogs. . . you see where I'm going with this. . .)

And on that note . . .

I'd love to hear what YOU are thankful for today? 

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thankful Day 2: Spoonful of Sanity

I'm taking the month of October to celebrate the bazillion things in my life for which I am thankful.  

I started off yesterday with this post

Today, I'd like to focus on three things that when combined produce much happiness in my life around 5:00pm. It's the time of day when my two littlest men start losing their ever-loving minds, Brian isn't home from work, and I am trying to cook dinner.  Otherwise known as the Perfect Storm.

It's an all-out catastrophe some days, so I have found a way to self-soothe amidst the chaos.   

It starts with a spoon. 

Then a nice dollop of this. 

Topped off with a healthy layer of these. 

I call this heaven.  

Sometimes I have seconds. 

Today, it's what I'm thankful for. . . 

It's the little things, people.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why One Little Mantle Holds So Much Meaning

Have I mentioned I love Fall? 

Mainly, it's because I can buy candy corn in bulk. (Yes, I'm aware how horrifically awful it is for me. If loving candy corn is wrong, I don't want to be right.)

In other news, I also love pumpkins, pumpkins spice latte, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie. . .  You get the picture. 

From October through December, I actually take time to decorate my house.  It's just something about the changing of seasons around here, when the temperature drops from 95 to 85 degrees . . . 

Good ol' Alabama. 

This quick, easy centerpiece costs under $15.  Found the pumpkins, gourds, and the wheat at Publix for around $7 total. Used some vases from around the house. The pumpkin was a Hobby Lobby clearance find.  

I love that I have a mantle to play around with during the holiday season.  This is my first home ever that has had a fireplace, and though it isn't used much, (thanks again, Alabama), I enjoy the idea of it. 

I printed off the "Thankful" letter pennants from Pinterest last fall and never got around to doing anything with them.  I didn't like the stark white pennant, so I found some unused scrapbook paper and made my own pennants.  The rest of the items on the mantle were things around my house that I took from other rooms.  (Because let's face it, nobody's hanging out in our master bathroom if they come to visit!)

If you know our family personally or have been following the blog for long, you know that this past summer was a really hard season for us.  From being diagnosed with Lyme, to some unexpected circumstances with J-man's foster situation, to simply adjusting to life with three boys, we were tired physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

That's why I'm so excited to have this Thankful banner hanging up in our house.  I spend most of my time in the room where it hangs, so I get a visual reminder of all of the BLESSINGS that have come despite the hardships over the past few months. 

As we head into the fall season, I want to be intentional about taking time daily to celebrate the small and grand gifts we have been given. 

Here is why I love this year's mantle so very much - Right below the beautiful, coordinated fall display is the messy, colorful, and very tangible reminder of two of our greatest gifts. 

My house is rarely clean and the floors are constantly cluttered.  But I am THANKFUL because this "mess" means that we have been blessed with what we prayed for so many years. . . our boys. 

For the month of October, it's my goal to celebrate the places, people, and things that God has provided in my life.  My "hope" is to document it daily.  

What are YOU thankful for today?